Fewer pupils in special schools

THE policy of retaining pupils with special educational needs in mainstream schools seems to be paying off at last. For the first time for many years the number of children in special schools has fallen below the 90,000 mark. But, the proportion of pupils with statements of SEN, in all types of maintained schools, has stayed at around 3 per cent for the past five years.

Provisional figures for this January revealed 248,970 pupils with statements. Of these, just over a third are in special schools, just under a third are in secondaries, and 28 per cent are in primaries. The remaining statemented pupils are educated in pupil-referral units (PRUs) or in the private sector.

In both primary and secondary sectors, the number of statemented children has declined. Currently, only some 2.4 per cent of secondary pupils have statements, the lowest incidence since 1998. The primary figure continues to hover around 1.6 per cent.

Virtually all pupils in special schools have statements. Fewer than one in five pupils on PRU rolls falls into this category. The number of SEN pupils without statements is not directly comparable with earlier years' figures as the classification system has changed.

These figures also do not help to explain why pupils are granted statements. Neither is it possible to monitor whether the number of pupils with particular types of SEN has changed during the past few years. This is unfortunate as tracking whether current educational initiatives have resulted in an increase in statements for pupils with emotional and behavioural difficulties might be particularly useful.

John Howson is a visiting professor at Oxford Brookes University and a director of Education Data Surveys. Email: john.howson@lineone.net.

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